Eighteen-year-old defenceman Jake Wilhelm is part of the young Saanich Braves team finding its way early in the Island league’s junior B season. Wilhelm played last season with the Port Alberni Bulldogs in the BCHL. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Starting over: Young Braves finding early rhythm

Saanich Braves host Victoria Cougars, Friday at Pearkes

A slow start isn’t phasing the Saanich Braves.

The team is much younger from the group that finished second place in the VIJHL South division last year. It has a new coach and a lot of fresh faces in the dressing room.

Friday night the Braves seek their second win of the 2017-18 season as they host the Victoria Cougars (3-1) at Pearkes arena, 6:30 p.m. Saturday the Braves visit the Comox Valley Glacier Kings (1-3).

“It could have started better,” said defenceman Jake Wilhelm, an 18-year-old making who played in the BCHL last year. “All of our games have been one goal differences. It would have been nice to be on the winning side of those games but, I think we’ve proved that we can be a top team in this league.”

To back up Wilhelm’s point, the Braves did pot four goals in a 5-4 loss against the league-leading and defending champion Campbell River Storm on Sept. 9.

But the Braves’ only win in their first four games of the season came against the Oceanside Generals on Sept. 15. In that game the Braves took a 4-0 lead in the first period and hung on to win 5-4.

“Our downfall right now is we find a patch in each game, maybe 10 minutes where we lose our momentum, and it seems to bother us a good amount, which we can’t let it do,” Wilhelm said.

Coach Sam Waterfield says it’s a time of growth for the group of rookies who’re new to junior this year.

“We’re a young team, they’re coming together, it’s been a fun start,” Waterfield said. “At this level if you make a mistake it ends up in the back of the net and it’s going to cost you games, [and] it has early on this year and that’s something we need to work on.”

Among the rookie crew is Hayden Visscher who has three goals in his first four games and, Zach Guerra, with a goal and an assist.

Returning veteran Dale McCabe leads the team with two goals, two assists.

For Waterfield, adding a player like Wilhelm is an ideal roster move. The former South Island Royals major midget player is locally produced and returned home after he declined a summer trade from the Bulldogs to the Jr. A Melville Millionaires in Saskatchewan.

Wilhelm is content now to play for the Braves while working part time and studying post-secondary online.

reporter@saanichnews.com

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